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Notes for Vestal Virgins Final Paper

Notes for Vestal Virgins Final Paper

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Published by: kathleen on Jan 21, 2010
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12/16/2012

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(1)
 Religion in the Roman Empire
(James B. Rives, Malden, MA: BlackwellPublishing, 2007)
“Romans and Etruscans alike apparently regarded any untoward event as a possible message from the gods, and the Senate regularly authorized theconsultation of either a Roman priestly college or the Etruscan haruspices in order to determine its significance.” (p. 83)
“Another distinctive feature of the Roman tradition was a strong emphasis ondivination. The traditional Roman form of divination was augury, theinterpretation of the calls and flights of birds; magistrates were required to employaugury before any public business in order to determine whether or not the godsapproved.” (p. 83)
“This concern for omens continued throughout the imperial period, when manyother forms of divination seem to have faded away.” (p. 83)
Graeco-Roman practice of representing gods in human form (p. 85)
“A key element in the Graeco-Roman tradition was the integration of public cultsinto the social and political structures of the city, so that they were to some extentsimply one facet of civic organization.” (p. 85)
“Roman authorities were often more concerned with the organization of publiccult and religious authority because these things were intimately bound up withthe fundamental power structures of society.” (p. 85)
“The Roman tradition likewise bestowed a central role on the goddess of thehearth, called Vesta in Latin, who similarly received offerings at mealtimes. In place of the domestic forms of Zeus, however, we find two groups of deities, theLares and the Penates, whose precise nature is uncertain. The name “Penates”(found only in the plural) is probably connected with the Latin word
 penus,
“arder”; they were thus apparently the protectors of the household property. Thename “Lares” (also found in the singular “Lar”) is more obscure, and their function seems to have been less specific, since Lares also appear as guardians ocrossroads. It was to the household Lares that young men dedicated the symbolsof their boyhood on their assumption of adult status, and young women dedicatedtheir toys and girlhood clothes when they married.” (p. 118-119)
“Aristotle identified the household as the basic building block of the city-state: both were part of the “natural” structuring of human society. Not surprisingly,there were significant interconnections between the household and the city.” (p.119)
o
Many of the traditional household orders also existed on a civic level.
o
The Vestal Virgins ensured that the fire inside their small shrine in theForum never went out, in addition to maintaining the public Penates. (p.121)
“Although religion frequently served to reinforce traditional social hierarchies, italso provided opportunities for marginalized group to advance their social statusin ways that would otherwise be denied to them. Women, for example, who weregenerally barred from political office, could nevertheless hold public priesthoods.This was especially common in the Greek tradition, in which female deities weretypically served by female priests; even in the Roman tradition, in which therewere fewer female priests, the Vestals enjoyed extremely high public status. In1
 
the imperial period some elite women used their priesthoods to establishthemselves as public benefactors on the same level as men, and consequentlyreceived the same forms of public recognition.” (p. 128)(2)
 Rome’s Vestal Virgins
(Robin Lorsch Wildfang, London: Routledge, 2006)
“The central purpose of both the most ancient form of Roman marriage rite that
cum manu
and the Vestal rite of 
captio
involved a girl’s removal from the familialcult under which she had lived from birth…The Vestal rite of 
captio
removed agirl from the cult of her birth family but manifestly did not complete the transfer of a girl to the cult of any new family. Instead the new Vestal remained in aliminal state, outside the realm of any one Roman family. In both rites, though,there existed a period of time, brief in the case of bride and of at least thirtyyears’ duration in the case of a Vestal, when the girl in question was no longer amember of her birth family’s cult nor yet a ember of a new family cult. In bothcases, the girl or woman in question wore her hair in the
 sex crines
style so longas the period of liminality lasted. The bride put aside her hairstyle as soon as therites that ensured her transfer to her new family were complete. The Vestal,however, retained hers s long as she was a member of the priesthood, visiblydemonstrating her peculiar liminal status and perhaps gaining protection from itsexistence.” (p. 13)
Wore a
 stola,
one of two groups (only the
matronae
and the Vestals) who wereallowed to wear one. “Both prostitutes and freedwomen were explicitly forbiddento wear either of these garments. In other words, the
 stola
was restricted to theuse of certain citizen class women.” (p. 13) The
 stola
likely was a visible sign of  purity since in addition to freedwomen and prostitutes, divorced women were also prohibited from donning it. (p. 13)
“Alongside their role as purificatory agents, the Vestals had a second andsimultaneous function, the guardianship of Rome’s symbolic storeroom and theritual manufacture of certain religious substances, which, while often used in purificatory rites, seem also in some way to have been symbolic of Rome’s foodstores.” (p. 16) --really good examples of types of food preparation that theVestals did can be found on page 16.
“What should be emphasized instead is the Vestals’ role as guardians of Rome’ssymbolic storehouse. These priestesses were, as Plutarch observes, the onlyRomans allowed within the
 penus,
and they alone knew the exact nature of theobjects preserved within this storeroom. What was important was not so muchthe precise contents of the
 penus
as the fact that the Vestals alone hadresponsibility for these contents and that these contents, whatever they were, wereintegral to the continued existence of Rome.” (p. 17) = more proof/symbolism of the Vestals’ necessity for the continuation of Rome itself.
“Alongside their religious duties within the precincts of the
aedes Vestae,
theVestal Virgins also participated more publicly in at least nine annual state rites.”(p. 22) –same responsibility of purification and storage expressed within theserituals…and of these nine, six were purificatory!
o
During the traditional New Year’s rite (March 1
st
, but actually New Year’saccording to the original Roman calendar), the priestesses replaced the olddecorative laurel branches on the
aedes Vestae
and kindled a new fire on2
 
the
 focus.
Ovid’s
 Fasti
describes this with, “So that Vesta may also shineshaded with new leaf, / The white laurel departs from the Trojan hearth. /Add, that new ire is said to be lit within the secret shrine / And therenewed flame gains strength.” (p. 22)
o
Cleansing rituals during the
Vestalia,
on June 9. Again, Ovid describesthe importance of this purificatory ritual in his
 Fasti.
“For the Dialis’ holywife said to me: / ‘Until the placid Tiber’s yellow waters carry / TrojanVesta’s sweepings to the sea, / I am not allowed to comb my hair withclipped / boxwood or trim my nails with iron, / or touch my husband,although he is Jupiter’s priest / and given to me by perpetual law. / You,too, should not hurry. Your aughter will wed better, / when blazing Vestashines with a clean floor.’” (Ov.
 Fast.
6.226-234) (p. 23)
o
For the
 Fordicidia
and the
 Parilia,
most primary evidence in Ovid andelsewhere emphasize the purificatory purposes. In fact, the “overwhelminconcern with purification and the minimal references to fertility suggeststrongly that these rites were meant primarily as purificatory measures andwere concerned with fertility only in as much as many ancient agriculturalrites were to some extent fertility-related by their very nature.” (p. 26)
o
One of the final annual rituals, the
 Argei,
is described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus as having the Vestal Virgins and Pontifices (the mostimportant priests) throw male effigies into the Tiber River. “…a littleafter the spring equinox, in the month of May, on what they call the Ides(the day they consider to be the middle of the month); on this day after offering the preliminary sacrifices according to the laws, the Pontifices, asthe most important of the priests are called, and with them the virgins whoguard the immortal fire, the Praetors, and whatever other citizens as maylawfully be present at the rites, throw from the sacred bridge into the river Tiber thirty effigies made in the likeness of men, which they call Argei.”(D.H. 1.38.3) (p. 27) Ovid also describes this when he writes, “Todayalso the Virgin hurls the straw dummies / of earlier men from the oaken bridge.” (Ovid,
 Fasti.
5.621-622) (p. 27) approximately 24-30 humanfigures were thrown into the water!
Some scholars have argued thatsince the
 Argei
occurred directly after the
 Lemuria,
the action of throwingthe effigies into the river was meant to symbolize the disposal of theghosts and spirits thought to be present during the
 Lemuria.
(p. 28)
o
From 7
th
to 15
th
of June, the
aedes
of Vesta were opened to Romanwomen, and then on June 9
th
, Vesta’s own festival, the
Vestalia,
occurred.It is likely that grain was manufactured into flour and bread during thisfestival. Ovid writes, “There survives to this time a piece of ancientcustom: / A pure platter brings Vesta offered food. / Look, bread hangsfrom garlanded donkeys, / and chains of flowers veil rough millstones. /Farmers used to roast only spelt in opens / (these are the rites of theGoddess, Fornax). / The hearth itself baked the bread covered in its ash; /after a chipped tile had been placed on the warm floor. / Hence the baker serves the hearth and the mistress of the hearths / And the donkey whoturns the pumice millstones.” (Ovid,
 Fasti
6.309-318) (p. 28-29)3

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